Having my own practice has always been a goal of mine. Whether I turned out to be a solo practitioner or owned a large practice that employs lots of people seems unclear, but the idea of having a managerial role has always appealed to me. I think it will come to fruition once I am settled somewhere that I want to be for a long time. Until then, I will happily remain an associate at the first one or two practices I work at.
I recently spent 2 weeks with a solo bovine practitioner. When he started his career, he served all livestock species, but transitioned to cows only after a few years. He practiced by himself from day one, despite the advice from his professors at school. While this idea of solo practice right after school was uncommon then, it is extremely uncommon now due to both the huge student loan burden and the commitment that this type of practice takes. Most solo practitioners, especially large animal vets, are on call for most of their lives. The sacrifice is enormous. For example, there may be some days when there is nothing on the schedule for most of the morning. Is it time to celebrate? Do you have the morning off to catch up on paperwork? Not really. You may get a call at 8:30 AM that calls your attention elsewhere. In terms of income and clientele, this great. But in terms of your life and things outside of work, this is a huge consideration that takes you away from the side of your life that does not involve veterinary medicine. Sometimes, that call is in the wee hours of the morning. Sure, you can charge the client an emergency fee for it to compensate for you getting up at 2 AM, but you may have a full day of appointments to follow. The lack of sleep can build up fast.
While solo practice is an excellent career option for us, I think that the realities of solo practice can only be understood when experienced. I never understood the realities until I spent time with two different solo vets and saw the similarities and differences in their day-to-day lives. One vet lived the workaholic life, while the other lived a more balance life. Both mindsets are possible, but each one takes a certain type of enduring focus that many people do not want to attempt.